That’s just the kind of boring, no-suspense football Los Angeles can get behind.
Technically, they were both home games, though neither felt that way. The Rams beat Arizona 33-0 in London, where the NFL is still sort of an exotic curiosity. The Chargers posted a 21-0 victory over Denver at the StubHub Center, where they are still sort of an exotic curiosity.
Still, it was a pair of critical wins in a league in which written-off teams routinely claw their way back to relevance.
The NFL is a mush pot of mediocrity through the first seven weeks, with no undefeated teams, and five of the eight divisions separated by no more than two games from top to bottom. It’s a wide-open race.
“It’s a big mess,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said of the tightly-knotted standings. “It seems like more than ever this year there’s not, ‘Oh, here’s the best in the division …’ It’s a big bunch of teams that you don’t know if they’re going to separate, or if they’re just going to beat each other up and swap wins.”
For the Chargers, they looked kaput when they lost their first four games. Now, with Oakland enduring a four-game losing streak, Denver barely registering a pulse on offense, and even mighty Kansas City getting the speed wobbles, the AFC West is a long way from decided.
And the Rams were essentially dismissed before the season started. They gagged their way to a 4-12 finish in their return to L.A. and appeared to have made a massive mistake by giving up so much to draft quarterback Jared Goff.
But after seven games this season, there’s no NFL player who has done a more thorough job of reinventing himself than Goff. Just 14 starts into his career, he looked so poised Sunday, he might as well have been throwing darts with a pint in his other hand.
Each L.A. team has some players who are locks for the Pro Bowl. Rams running back Todd Gurley, who topped 100 yards again, is back to that sensational talent he was as a rookie, before last season’s turnstile offensive line and paint-by-numbers playbook had him greeted by a welcome wagon of defenders as soon as he got the ball.
And defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who had one of the Rams’ three sacks Sunday, has shaken off any of the rust he had from skipping training camp.
The Chargers might have the league’s most terrifying pass-rushing tandem in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, who were remarkably inhospitable to the Broncos. Ingram looked as if he was shot out of the Chargers’ cannon on one brutal sack of Trevor Siemian, drawing a flag for a much-debated helmet-to-helmet hit. Later, Ingram had 297-pound Broncos tackle Garett Bolles on roller skates and rode him back into Siemian.
Ingram might have been thinking something such as, “I’ll probably get flagged if I hit you again, so I’ll just throw your own guy into you.”
Siemian was clearly rattled, and the Broncos are flailing offensively. They have scored three touchdowns in the past 16 quarters. To put that in perspective, the winless Cleveland Browns have scored five over the same span.
Denver (3-3) is in trouble, with the next five weeks unfolding thusly: at Kansas City, at Philadelphia, New England, Cincinnati, at Oakland.
The Chargers (3-4), meanwhile, have hope, even though they face a difficult stretch of their own: at New England, at Jacksonville, Buffalo and at Dallas, before a home game against the Browns.
“We feel like it’s wide open, and those guys [in the locker room] feel like it’s been that way since day one,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “We just dug a hole for ourselves, and we’re just climbing out of the hole. We know we’ve got a hill to climb.”
That will require winning a lot of home games that don’t feel like home games. Large swaths of Sunday’s crowd were attired in powder … orange. StubHub Center was basically a sea-level version of Mile High, where it would be generous to the home team to say the crowd was 50/50 Broncos and Chargers fans.
Strange as it sounds, the Chargers had to score a couple of touchdowns to quiet the home crowd. That’s not going away.
“We just said, ‘Let’s not even let that be an issue,’ ” Rivers said of having so many opposing fans at his team’s home stadium. “I don’t think it was in any way a reason why we lost those three games [at home earlier this season], but certainly it took a little getting used to.”
Sunday, the first time the Chargers won at StubHub, they savored in the satisfaction of sending the boo-birds home unhappy.
“The whole talk was about how there was going to be more orange than blue in there,” Bosa said. “To see them filing out at the end was a pretty good feeling.”
On a big Sunday for L.A., both the Chargers and Rams got their point across in a resounding way. And got nary a field goal by way of response. For them, a boring thing of beauty.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer